Cristina NualART

ART REVIEWS, ARTICLES & ESSAYS

Tip of the Knife: visual poetry and curated tweet poems

Edited by Bill DiMichele, writer of weird and wonderful droplets, Tip of the Knife is a visual poetry publication that has just launched issue 26. It contains my photo-poem During Uncertainty and three of my curated-tweet-poems you may have seen elsewhere on this website. Take a walk down the bushy, wild paths that streak Issue 26:

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Contributors to issue 26 of TOK are: Sean Burn, Volodymyr Bilyk, Marilyn R. Rosenberg, Cristina Nualart, Mark Young, Vernon Frazer and Mark Russell.

How did graffiti reach Vietnam?

How does globalisation actually work? How does a trend, a style, a product, a technique move across borders and get incorporated into a new culture? Here’s a curious little example from Vietnam.

In ENGLISH:

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En ESPAÑOL:

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All photos © Cristina Nualart:

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Graffiti in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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KCBT stencils in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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Graffiti artist at work in Saigon Outcast, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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The teenage owner of NC Store, graffiti materials shop in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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The space in front of HCMC’s NC store. cialis generic

 

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Graffiti crew at work on the façade of Zerostation Art Space, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

 

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Graffiti in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.

The Schwarzenegger Ghostsign and other gems from Ho Chi Minh City’s public space

The Schwarzenegger Hide and Seek is my book chapter in Advertising and Public Memory, published by Routledge. For this investigation, I found rare examples of hand-painted shop signs still visible in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in the second decade of the 21st century. Visual research suggests that urban Vietnam had a strong body of hand-painted signs, even during war time, but few examples now survive in this country that has developed rapidly in recent decades. Hand-painted shop signs, adverts and propaganda have practically disappeared from the public space, overtaken by vast quantities of computer-generated signage commonly printed on plastic or vinyl.

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The photos in the book are greyscale, but here you can admire the signs in full colour:

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Hand painted sign for Chánh Nghia cake decorators, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo by Cristina Nualart, 2015

 

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Hand painted sign (now gone) on body building club, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo by Cristina Nualart, 2011

 

As someone who is fascinated by the power of the object, especially the found object, from arte povera to material culture, my interest in hand painted signs is quite predictable. Stories of my first thrills in this field in Vietnam appear in this post from 2012: The last hand painted sign in Saigon.

 

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Art, Cultural Mediation and Diversity

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In Madrid from 12-16 September 2016, European research teams from universities, museums and community organizations met at the conference Art, Cultural Mediation and Diversity. Divercity: diversity in the musem and the city.

This week-long conference has two parts to it. Panels of speakers show images and videos and speak of their work. The conference also includes participative sessions, where instead of a more formal, seated, exchange of knowledge and examples, we take part in activities such as those one might do with a museum, a school, a social refuge, or a cultural centre. Alongside people from all corners of Europe, who work in places from prestigious museums to women’s refuges, we explored personal connections to public art, practiced methods to encourage empathy, and improvised creative responses to confront stereotypes.

I don’t know if I would have thought of it had I been involved in planning a conference on this topic, but it seems obvious in retrospect that a stencil workshop is a great thing to offer. I enjoyed all talks and activities, but I really went into that wonderful flow mode while making my stencil.

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My stencil work, with a Janus head intended to be turned upside down.

Urban guerrilla warfare was not the aim of the workshop, but by showing how to draw, cut and spray a piece of stencil art, the seeds are planted for us to contemplate inserting stenciled image-messages into cities. I don’t feel any desperate need ‘to be heard’ by the city, so personally I’m not planning to spray my thoughts on brick walls just yet. Instead, I went for the wearables market, and sprayed my message on a shopping bag. Thus, my message will be advertised from my person, as and when I choose to silently shout out in the public sphere.

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The making of Death of the Arteacher, by Cristina Nualart.

 

Death of the Arteacher is the little sentence I came up with to sum up a lot of the ideas churning in my head as I reflect on art education, something that for years I’ve been involved with in multifaceted ways. I reference Barthes’ Death of the Author, with its suggestions that readers (or by implication, viewers) have agency in a meaning-making process. My message also comments on some stereotypes that weight on art educators, unfairly assumed, sometimes, to be not very skilled/talented/’useful’, either by ‘professional’ artists or by the public at large. (In a future blog post I will cover some funny anecdotes from my personal experiences).

An important overarching fact that transpires from the conference presentations is that institutions, in this case mostly art museums, are continuously reaching out to NGOs and grass roots or social organizations to get ‘diverse’ people involved in their activities. There is clearly an institutional drive to look for people who may be at risk of social exclusion and to set up initiatives specifically for these people to take part in. Many of the conference speakers were constantly improving and/or questioning their review systems and ways of evaluating their work and getting feedback to help ascertain the impact it may have had.

Social change is often a slow process, and no one is deluded that any cultural project is going to make radical improvements to the social fabric, but the feeling amongst conference participants is that these small changes that are activated by one person doing something in collaboration with a museum’s education department will bring long term benefits to that person and those in their circle. If the start of social change is merely that the elitist aura that hangs over museums is dispersing, that alone, we can imagine, is going to improve the world a little bit.

Another commonality is that large institutions are increasingly reaching out, working outside of the museum walls and taking their staff to the periphery of the city, or simply working in a public space which may be perceived as ‘neutral’ or has a connection to the participants of a project.

No institution works in vacuum; ideas cross-pollinate; museums and schools feed off each other. Given that museums seem to be increasingly developing similar projects to those offered by schools and other education providers, the question that I reflect on is what is the role of the museum, beyond the obviously great work of making art less ‘scary’ and more inclusive. I ask myself if museums shouldn’t be aiming to create situations where the various canons and power structures of the museum itself are questioned. In no way wishing to demean the value of any educational programme in a museum, my question did raise a few feathers among some panelists, but one beautiful answer was simple: that is the next step, but first we do we need to get people from all sectors of society comfortable enough with art and museums that such a question can be debated. We shall all keep working and reflecting on this!

YouTube channel on one of the feminist research projects: Madrid Ciudad de las Mujeres

The Divercity word play  reminds me of DomestiCity, my photo essay on domestic use of public space Vietnam (and some unusual examples of domestic work in private spaces).

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Research paper: Queer Art from Vietnam

My paper Queer art in Vietnam: from closet to pride in two decades is an open-access publication by Palgrave.

 

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ABSTRACT:

Male and female artists in Vietnam from the early 1990s to the new millennium have contributed art that gives visibility to non-normative lifestyles that go against the traditional values espoused by national rhetoric. This article explores some of the first manifestations of queer art in contemporary Vietnam, outlining a short history of artworks that may be considered “queer” because of their subject matter, irrespective of whether they were made by straight or queer identified artists. Many of these artworks are not made in traditional media, or they break conventions in the local artistic canon. Frequently they have performative characteristics, an art form that arose in Vietnam in the 1990s, the beginning of the timeframe explored here. Photography, another medium not long or firmly established, is also extensively employed. The narrative attends specifically to the dissidence, in content or format, of selected artworks, and points to a correlation over time to an increased tolerance of homosexuality.

Course on contemporary art from Vietnam

ES: Durante abril 2016, ofreceré un curso de arte contemporáneo de Vietnam en Casa Asia, Madrid.

EN: I’ve developed a course on contemporary art from Vietnam that I will teach in Casa Asia, Madrid, Spain, during April 2016.

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Arco-co-collage 2016

Collage is like the mind, it keeps all wanderlustered ramifications in one easy-access place, that in turn takes you on a journey. As a medium, it is one big playing field for both material and formal explorations, and for serendipitous image composition and surreal conceptualisation.

ARCO, the Madrid art fair, had an abundant amount of collaged works during its 35th edition. On paper, that doesn’t surprise me. ARCO has a high interest in art from Latin America, and that’s a region that in recent years has been producing a lot of careful work on paper, often with a retro flavour, which embeds plentiful references to times of old  i.e., political critique.). I’m thinking, for example, of the work of artists like Elena Damiani, Johanna Calle, Adriana Bustos or Luz Lizarazo. But collage, arguably, can be sculptural or photographic, as in some of the examples here which some might label ‘expanded painting’. Same idea. Take multiple pieces, preferably with some random component during the selection process, and put them all together. It can be done with home appliances, printed images, canvas-less frames, slabs of marble, feathers or photographic film negatives.

 

During Uncertainty, a visual poem

I take photographs of words on artworks, museum displays, urban paraphernalia, sticker art and anything else that contains beautiful text or a suggestive combination of words.

Here are some of those photographs worked into a visual poem, titled During Uncertainty.

DURING UNCERTAINTY During a time before slowlife a small catastrophe, somewhere in the third word, does not consume itself They think this is history because urban fields have been broken beyond group occupation Go! or come to a naughty place on your side Scapegoating city lights were his eyes missing voyages that changed the picture-story Good parts, casual sparks, doth fade, we return then at so-called city of surprises Please follow ahead action to be continued embrace uncertainty

 

Like many people who studied art and humanities, I often catch my mind holding hands with the preoccupation of professional uncertainty. For no very good reason, since I have managed to get by in a number of countries without too much existential angst. Each job and each trip has been a joyful risk and successful experience -only a little bit scary.

While creating this piece I wondered more and more about refugees’ perception of travel, of emigration, of life change. I admit, with a mixture of guilt-shame and thankfulness, that despite the precariat ravaging culture and knowledge work,  I am in a random -and lucky- position of privilege. I hope that refugees too will witness their life journeys as an adventure with a happy ending.

Good luck (and resist the Precariat!)

 

THE MADWOMAN, a poem by Hoang Hung

THE MADWOMAN

Carrying a broken stick on her head
she walks and sings
Evening comes gradually at the end of the street

She walks and sings
Fragments of a tranquil song
break in my heart

Alas, the madness of tile and brick
Please sing and sing again
of all the destruction
you carry in your head

 

In:
Black dog, black night: Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry.
Edited and translated by Nguyen Do and Paul Hoover.

(Permission was sought from editor to post this poem, but after a year no answer was received. Please note that copyright lies with publisher and poet. This poem is not covered by this site’s Creative Commons license.)

My artwork censored for critiquing destruction of HCMC historical building

This drawing I finished in 2014 was not allowed to be featured in a Vietnamese publication on artworks on urban Vietnam. The editor told me that the local censorship board apparently felt that this drawing shows a lack of respect to Saigon, for showing the sentence ‘Saigon is beautiful’ upside down.

How ironic that the censors missed the point completely. The upside down sentence on the artwork makes -quite clearly, I feel- a reference to the destruction of Ho Chi Minh City’s old buildings. Demolishing historical architecture does not make a city more beautiful. And Vietnam does not have much left in terms of historical architecture.

To find out more on this drawing and the now disappearead Cho Van Thanh market depicted in it see The Ghost of Cho Van Thanh

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Rubble Mural featured in Word magazine

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The rubble mural I made for the LIN community centre in Saigon is featured in the August 2014 issue of Word Vietnam magazine, pages 83 to 87.

25 Years of Freedom – A Vietnamese Gallery’s Vision

ArtRadar_article_screenshot_webThis article was published on Art Radar on 1 August 2014.

 

From the postwar to Vietnam’s economic boom, Tu Do Gallery has been running successfully for a quarter of a century in Ho Chi Minh City.

Over a decade after the unification of Vietnam, the regime’s Doi Moi reforms allowed private enterprises to be formed. One of the first of these enterprises was Tu Do art gallery. 25 years later, it continues to operate from its base in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

I asked the owner Mr Dang Son, who is now 78, the same question that many of his friends had asked him when he started out: how could an art gallery survive in a country with so many pressing needs? ‘Luckily’, he smiles.

In the late 80s, husband and wife Son and Ha reunited after his return from a re-education camp. The couple lived in a house on the centrally located Dong Khoi street (formerly Tu Do, meaning freedom), which they renovated to turn into a shop. When Nguyen Tuan Khanh, the artist better known as Rung, suggested that he exhibit his paintings in their house, the would-be shop became the first private gallery in South Vietnam.

There was no artistic activity in the city, the gallery owner explains, because there were virtually no public or private art spaces in fresh-faced Vietnam.

Read the full article on Art Radar here.

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Text and photos (2010-2014) by Cristina Nualart

 

Unless otherwise specified, text and images © 2017 Cristina Nualart

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.



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